If you struggle with any of the most common food allergies—including eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, shellfish, or gluten—you may assume that most Chinese restaurants, especially Chinese buffets, are totally off the menu. But while soy sauce and eggs are often staples in many traditional Chinese dishes, there are also some good options for those who are sensitive or allergic to these ingredients. Learn more about a few of your best allergen-free options when dining at a Chinese restaurant.
Regardless of which type of allergy (or allergies) you're dealing with, it's crucial to check with the manager, waitstaff, or even the chef to confirm so that you're aware of the ingredients in what you'll be consuming. Even if the General Tso's chicken at your favorite Chinese place is always gluten-free, there's no guarantee that a different restaurant will prepare this dish in the same way, so confirming before you dine is always the safest bet.
If you'd like to avoid consuming milk on your next Chinese buffet outing, look for dishes like lettuce wraps, dumplings, or sweet-and-sour chicken. Avoid the dessert tray, as many of these options are prepared with (or near) milk and whey products.
Because soy sauce contains gluten and features heavily in many Chinese restaurants, dining totally gluten-free can be a challenge. However, as more and more Americans are realizing they're sensitive to gluten, restaurants have stepped up their efforts to accommodate these sensitivities, and many may offer an entirely "gluten-free" row of buffet offerings.
Even if the buffet you're visiting doesn't have its own gluten free section, you can't go wrong with some sticky rice and steamed salmon or chicken. Many versions of Hot and Sour Soup can also be made gluten-free.
What Allergies Are Simply Too Risky?
Although many Chinese restaurants and buffets make extra efforts to accommodate those with peanut, tree nut, or gluten allergies, avoiding soy or egg (or cross-contamination from these ingredients) is all but impossible in a traditional Chinese restaurant. Restaurants that rely heavily on peanut- or cashew-based dishes may also be tough to work around when it comes to cross-contamination dangers.
However, those who want an egg- or shellfish-free experience may have luck by visiting a vegan or vegan-friendly Chinese restaurant. After all, not serving eggs or shellfish (or using sauces that include them as an ingredient) is the best way to completely eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.